I was planning to publish an article about what we feed Hudson (our son) today. In fact, was almost 3/4 written when I received an email from a reader that I felt was more relevant to address.
The reason being is that she probably feels very similar to how you may feel from time to time when you’re trying to make sense of all the health information available online these days (yes, including what you read here on Renegade Health, too!)
The email, from Jollean, was long and filled with questions.
The title: “I’m confused and I’d appreciate if you would help me to understand this.”
Here’s a snippet of it:
I am 56 years old and I have been reading information since I was in my 20s about how to eat healthy. The more I read, the more confused I became. I have tried every kind of diet there is and I’m still not sure how I should be eating. At one time, I ate a lot of fruit, then there were years when I didn’t eat any fruit. I used to eat meat, then I went years without eating any meat, dairy and eggs. Then, I felt like I was not getting enough protein and I started eating turkey or chicken, fish, and eggs again.
I decided to write to you and ask you what you eat. I really want to know how I should eat. I can’t take the confusion and contradictions any more.
Confusion and contradictions are what first started my own path of health research. I wanted to find the truth. The one diet that would work.
But over time I’ve learned I was searching for something that didn’t quite exist — or at least didn’t exist in the way that I had imagined it.
So if you feel confused or just read two different articles on the same day that are on opposing ends of the spectrum about a certain food (coffee, kale, chocolate, wine…) this article may be exactly what you need to get clear about your own health and own personal diet.
Kev, what do you eat?
First up, Jollean asked me what I eat on a regular basis — a question I get a lot.
I will tell you that I eat real, clean, organic foods. That’s about how much I want to define my diet these days.
If you had asked me that question 3-4 years ago, I would have said a raw food, vegan diet. The problem is, that diet didn’t work for me. So the value in me telling you what I eat is pretty much worthless.
1. It might change over time. Anything on put on the Internet or in a book could be viewed as my present truth when in fact it isn’t. For example, Harvey Diamond who wrote Fit For Life, has long since eaten differently than what was outlined in that book. I know many people who still follow his book and even start out on a new diet because of it. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, it’s just not Harvey Diamond’s truth anymore.
So if I list a bunch of foods that I’m eating, you may assume it’s working for me, when in fact, I may find out a day later it’s not and I change. I don’t want to live with the overbearing weight of attempting to find and update everything I’ve ever written or filmed every time I decide kombucha is good or bad for me. (Right now, I’m on the good for you side, BTW.)
2. For me the raw food diet didn’t work. It messed up my hormones and digestion. This, at least to me, means what I’m doing right now may not work as well in the future.
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m an avid experimenter. So, ultimately, there’s little value in me sharing what I eat in the moment, particularly when I know it may not work out the way I expected.
So with that out of the way, Jollean, I want to get into the core of what you’re asking.
“What should I eat?”
Unfortunately, we’re so far removed from our ancestral knowledge that we’ve don’t even know how to properly do the third most important thing our bodies need to do to survive — eat. (First being breathing and second drinking — and I’d even argue that we don’t even know how to do those right as well, LOL)
Imagine an eagle up in the sky peering down at both a mouse and a patch of wild sunflowers. Does he question which food has more essential fatty acids? Or the ethics of eating a living being or not? Does he wonder what Dr. Eagle from New York would say on primetime TV about his decision to eat one or the other?
Of course not. The eagle is hardwired to eat the mouse.
We’re more complicated, since we’re as omnivorous as a garbage disposal, but that doesn’t mean that some foods are better than others.
Ultimately, in my own study, I’ve found these two things to be true.
First, individuals cannot strictly rely on what one health expert says, since we have our own bio-individuality that factors into what we’re supposed to eat.
And, second, there are certain factors that I’m sure can affect what we eat — and even more confusing — they can change over time.
I’ll go through some of them now.
If we all were from the same lineage, it may be easy to decide what we need to eat. So for instance, if we all were transported to the same place right now — say Sardinia, eating the same foods, living the same lifestyle, and in the same time in history we’d see a few things happen.
We’d see some people not thrive because their genetics aren’t adapted to this type of situation and eating and we’d see others thrive.
Eventually, over time, those who thrive will have children who will thrive as well. Those who don’t will have children who have complications and eventually they may not even be able to reproduce.
This has happened throughout history due to our nomadic nature. Our tribe moves away to another place and those who can adapt now have a new diet, those who don’t, well they don’t have a diet at all. (Or they send themselves “to Belize,” if you happen to be a Breaking Bad fan.)
In a more controlled, more specific example, horses over the period of a few generations can be bred to have certain characteristics based solely on what they’re fed. This means they can either live longer or shorter, they can be taller or shorter, slower or faster — just because they were fed a certain diet.
It would be foolish to think that we’re immune to these genetic changes when we switch or are adapting to a new diet.
Weston Price’s work that shows declining mouth and tooth structure once processed white flour and sugar were introduced into the diets of tribal people is a good example of this — food, over time, changing genetics.
But anyway, to get back to why this causes confusion — you have a set of genes that has adapted in some ways to eating a certain way. This way may or may not be the way that Dr. So-and-So writes about on the Internet. So if you listen to him or her and it doesn’t work, you wonder if anyone really knows what they’re talking about (and you may be right.)
Allergies and Overload
Unfortunately, most of us live in an environment with compounding factors that affect our health. EMFs, GMOs, noise pollution, light pollution, molds, artificial hormones, pesticides, herbicides, outgassing furniture and construction materials, environmental pollution, etc.
That list isn’t to scare you, it’s just the reality of our modern times. Some people may be sensitive to these things more than others. Some may be fine until just one other is added to their environment and they get sick.
So your overload or allergies could be caused by the black mold in your basement, or it could be caused by GMOs, or it could be caused by the casein in the milk of a Holstein cow, but not a Jersey cow. We don’t know, but I can tell you that if you’re trying to determine the right diet for you and are still getting allergies not because of your diet, but because you’re sensitive to your outgassing couch, you’ll be confused for life (or until you get a non-toxic couch.)
If you’re toxic, you may not be able to eat the diet that is best for you.
You could find two people of equal genetics that should thrive on the same diet, but if one is loaded up with mercury toxicity, it’s going to seem that the diet works for one and not the other.
This can thoroughly confuse the argument of what to eat, particularly if no one knows the individual has high mercury levels.
This reaches far wider than mercury. Toxins from plastics, packaging, in skin care, in foods, fragrances, colorings, and many more may cause unknown discrepancies in what you can or cannot eat and feed the confusion.
Quality of Food
Your corn from Connecticut might be more nutritious for you than your corn from Texas. It may contain more minerals. It may be grown beyond organic standards. But to the eye, it looks like corn.
It’s completely possible that you could believe you’re eating the same diet as someone who appears healthy, but the quality of your food just isn’t the same. Then you, in turn, would get lesser results.
This, again, can totally confuse you and your perception of what is healthy or not.
How do you feel about yourself?
Positive mental attitude can dramatically affect your longevity. Though my own personal research, I’m pretty confident that stress and negativity is just as bad (or maybe worse) than processed flour and processed sugar.
If that’s the case, someone’s mental wellbeing needs to be factored into the “diet” equation. I don’t know how much, but it cannot be left out.
So, as you can imagine, this might cause some confusion about what foods are healthy and what are not — particularly since most researchers won’t even look at this as a factor since it’s not something you eat.
Our way is not the only way.
There are other factors that I can list like exercise (and quality of it) and family relationships and life’s purpose, but what I’m getting at is that there are too many factors to control in order to find the right diet for us as a whole population and species — it’s become too difficult. I would argue that the right diet doesn’t even exist anymore. Maybe this is why so many people are confused. They’re all searching for the equivalent of a dietary Loch Ness Monster.
What’s easier, I’ve found, to determine is the right diet for you — regardless of what the experts say.
The hardest part of this, is that it means you have to do some of the work on your own.
How do you know what diet is right for you?
Through my own health journey, I’ve determined the best way to find out what is working and what is not is twofold.
First, you have to find and work with a practitioner that you trust.
Second, you have to use blood testing to determine if what you’re doing is really working or not.
Find a good coach
Any good businessman or woman has a mentor. All my sports heroes have coaches. Even the fictitious X-Men have Professor Charles Xavier as their leader and elder (BTW: I’m totally into these movies right now, LOL.)
If you want to have a great body and great diet, then get a coach. We use Dr. J.E. Williams. You may have someone else you trust, but most importantly, you need someone who can look at your own individual factors and give you advice based on what is going on in your world — not in generalities on the Internet or TV or the healthy food potluck.
To find a coach near you, you can start your search on FunctionalMedicine.org. Here you’ll find doctors who understand physiology and pathology, but also understand that medicines aren’t always the solution to our modern health issues.
Get your blood tested
Once you find your coach, then it’s time to get your blood tested. (Or urine, or stool, or saliva.) A good practitioner will listen to you and determine what tests will give them the best information about your body and then take you through what they see.
Once you’re tested, you can then make changes and test again to determine if your markers are moving in the right direction or not.
Confusion? Almost Gone.
Working with a practitioner and reading your own blood tests, I’ve found, is the most effective way to eliminate most of the confusion around diet.
If you’re on the raw food diet and your hormones are totally wacky and then switch to Paleo only to find you’ve swung too far the other way, then you know you have to find a sweet spot some place in between.
The work you have to do (with the help of your coach) is to determine what factors you want to experiment with — do you want to eat low fat, high carb, do you want to take mineral supplements, do you want to try a breatharian approach (please don’t — and if your practitioner suggests it, run) — and then, the hardest part… follow through with it.
If you do, the confusion becomes empowered knowledge. And all the other solutions you’ve read about are just ideas. Ones that you may or may not need to take with you in the future — when inevitably what you’re doing now may not work as it once did. (But, you’ll know what to do, since you’ve got your coach and your blood tests… right?)
Your question of the day: Are you confused about your diet? What confuses you the most?